Pizza Tour USA: Meet the man who has turned his obsession into a business

'Pizza is delicious, customisable, portable, and inexpensive. It’s the perfect food!'

 

Kashmira Gander
Thursday 23 March 2017 10:16 GMT
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Scott Wiener loves pizza. He loves pizza so much he gave up having a regular job to found a tour of pie hotspots in New York. He's so obsessed with it that he has collected over 1,300 pizza boxes from around the US.

“Pizza is delicious, customisable, portable, and inexpensive,” the 35-year-old obsessive tells The Independent. “It’s the perfect food!”

The New Yorker’s love affair with the Italian staple started in New Jersey, where he gradually began buying pizza weekly as a teenager. When he left to study at Syacruse University and toured the US with rock bands he was amazed by how many different combinations of flat bread and toppings there could be. Realising Scott was addicted to pizza, a friend gifted him a pizza journal so he could document every bite.

After he graduated, Scott worked a range of jobs from performing as costumed characters at birthday parties, working on TV shoots and fashion shows, to helping to run a now defunct record label. When he took off six months from working as an evenings co-ordinator, his love for pizza became his career almost by mistake. He started rounding up friends in his car to head out for pizza-tasting sessions around New York. After he rented out a bus for his birthday, he had a light-bulb moment, and Scott’s Pizza Tours was founded. That was nine years ago. Since then, Scott’s Pizza Tours have run 3,500 trips for over 46,000 people.

Naturally, Scott, also pens a column for Pizza Today Magazine, and judges pizza contests across the US. The Independent caught up with him to talk about what makes the perfect pizza and his second-favourite food.

Hi Scott, tell us a little about yourself

I’m 35 years on the planet, originally from New Jersey but currently living in Brooklyn. Job title is president and founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours on Slice Out Hunger.

What is the formula for mind-blowing pizza?

It’s all about balance. Great cheese is nothing without great crust. Great crust is nothing if not topped with delicious ingredients.

Thinking back on all the different pizzas you have eaten, which was the best and why?

I’ve had a lot of pizzas that changed my life, but the pizza marinara at Pizzeria Da Michele was one of the big moments for me. It’s the simplest pizza you can get, with just tomato and garlic and oil, and no cheese. It was divine. I ate it in Feb 2009 and still remember the taste.

What is the worst pizza you have ever eaten?

The only pizza I ever tried that I couldn’t even swallow was at a kosher place in Brooklyn. I won’t name names, but just trust your instincts when approaching a pizzeria. I should have trusted mine.

How can a person check if a pizza shop is good before testing the pizza? Are there warning signs in the menu?

There are very few warning signs but take a look on other people’s tables and eyeball the goods. Sometimes a pizza could look good and taste bad but it rarely looks bad and tastes good.

After pizza, what is your favourite food?

I love ice cream. It's the same idea. you can have a simple basic flavour and toppings and or mix-ins could either enhance or distract. It’s also all over the world, so I like that everyone has a shared experience with it.

Tell me about your collection of pizza boxes

I currently have over 1,300 pizza boxes in my collection. They’re from over 65 different countries and all of them are amazing in their own way.

I haven’t been to most of these places, but people ship boxes to me in Brooklyn and I really love that. I wrote a book about the collection, called Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box, and we’ve even done art gallery shows of the best boxes in the collection.

How can a person make a delicious pizza at home? What is the most important ingredient?

Dough is the most important ingredient. If you don’t feel comfortable making your own, buy some from a local pizzeria. But making dough is so easy, I almost hate giving you that cheat step. Be careful with the dough. You don’t want to handle it wrong or it will lost its ability to stretch. Once you get the dough and the stretch, the rest is just knowing how much topping to use.

What are your thoughts on tomato puree and its role in pizza?

I’m not a fan of puree, I prefer either crushed tomato or whole peeled tomatoes that get crushed at the pizzeria.

What are some the most memorable experiences you have had when running the pizza tours?

Amazing things happen every day on the tour. We’ve had marriage proposals, an actual wedding, crazy run-ins with famous pizza makers. There’s really something new all the time but I forget about them all when someone asks me to name one.

What are some of the most exciting pizza trends at the moment?

There’ a big push lately for long fermentation, high hydration dough that’s really exciting. People are getting more focused on the dough and that’s really the most important component. I even know some people who are milling their own flour!

What sort of pizza do you refuse to eat? For example frozen pizza?

I don’t refuse pizza. I don’t eat a lot of frozen pizza or chain pizza, but I would never ever refuse it.

What do you usually eat in a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Breakfast is almost always oatmeal. I have a couple slices throughout the day on tours. If I’m cooking at home, I’d roast some veggies and maybe have a piece of fish. I try to eat carefully because pizza can get rough on the body if left unchecked. But I have a routine and so far it’s working out fine.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m doing more research to get the bank of information we discuss on the tours to be as accurate as possible. Most of the time we’re talking about things in a way that are not readily available online, so we’re doing the research ourselves. It’s a lot of fun but it’s hard work. We’re also pushing our nonprofit, Slice Out Hunger, which does hunger relief fundraising via the pizza community. That’s a huge project right now but it’s a really important one.

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